Lawn & Garden

What You Need to Know About Adding an Outlet in Your Backyard

It happens to most of us, we need to plug something in outside but outlets are never in good spots. Learn about installing an outlet in your backyard.

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An outdoor outlet can certainly come in handy when it’s time to put up holiday decorations, plug in tools to do yard work or even when you want to plug in your record player out on the patio. If you don’t have an outdoor outlet, or you have too few of them, you have options besides running an extension cord from the inside of the house -- and that’s just as well, because extension cords can be a recipe for disaster.

Instead of running cords everywhere, creating trip hazards and increasing your risk for electrical fires and shocks, install a new outdoor outlet in your home. It’s easier than you might think to learn how to install an outdoor outlet, as long as you have an interior outlet or, at least, an interior circuit that you can tap into for your new outdoor electrical outlet. 

Choose a Location for Your New Outdoor Outlet

The best location for a new outdoor outlet is on the other side of the wall from an interior outlet because an interior outlet provides a useful place to tap into an electrical circuit in your home. Make sure you’re using a general use circuit or lighting circuit. Don’t tap into a kitchen or bathroom circuit or any specialized circuits used to power large appliances or home systems. These circuits already bear a heavy load, so adding an outdoor receptacle could overload the circuit and trip the circuit breaker whenever you use the outlet.

If you don’t have an interior outlet near where you want to put your exterior outlet, you can tap into a basement junction box by drilling through the rim joist and siding to run the cable through to the exterior wall. Make sure you’re using a living room, basement or bedroom circuit. 

Cut Power to the Circuit

Before you tap into the circuit you’ve selected, cut power to it at the breaker box. Use a voltage tester to test the interior outlet or junction box you’re going to tap into to make sure it’s not live. If you’re using an outlet, you will have to test the wires themselves once you remove the outlet. 

Remove the Indoor Outlet

When you’re sure that the indoor outlet you want to tap into is dead, remove it from the wall. Pull it gently from the wall and unscrew the circuit wires connected to it. Push the wires off to the side, out of your way. Locate the knockout in the back of the work box and knock it out by tapping it with a screwdriver.

Mark the Location for Your New Outlet

You’ll make the location for your new outdoor outlet by drilling a hole through the wall to the outside. You’ll need an 18-inch-long drill bit for this. If you have masonry or stucco siding, you might need a masonry bit and a hammer drill to get through the wall. 

You can place the new outlet directly behind the interior outlet on the other side of the wall, or you can position it somewhat lower or higher by tilting the drill bit up or down. Remember to place the new outdoor outlet in the same stud cavity as the indoor outlet. If you’re tapping into a junction box, you’ll drill a hole right through the rim joist and through the wall to run your circuit wiring.

Go outside and look for the hole in your siding. Drill a one-inch hole over this hole, or a few inches straight up or down from it if that’s where you want your new outlet.

Install New Circuit Wiring

Use new wiring cable that is the same gauge and amperage rating as what is used in the existing circuit. Strip off about two feet of sheathing from one end of the cable and trim off two of the three wires. Bend the third wire around and tape it to the cable to make a loop. Shove that loop through the knockout in the interior receptacle workbox and, using a bent clothes hanger, reach into the hole on the exterior wall and fish it through. Pull through about a foot of wire. At the interior box, cut off the new cable so there’s about a foot hanging out of the wall.

Install the New Electrical Box

To create pigtails, cut about six inches of wire off the end of your coil and strip about ¾ of an inch of insulation off the ends of each. You want three pigtail wires — a black, a white, and a green or ground.

Connect the pigtail wires to the appropriate screws on the interior receptacle: black goes to brass, white to silver and ground to green. Strip off about ¾ inches of insulation from the other end of each pigtail, and from the end of the new wire that you’ve fed through the walls. Use wire nuts to connect all three hot (black) wires to one another, all three neutral (white) wires to each other, and all three ground (green or bare) wires to each other. Tuck them carefully into the work box, then replace the interior outlet.

Outside, install a new work box in the exterior wall by holding it up to the wall, tracing around it and then carefully cutting out the hole with a drywall saw, making sure to stay with the lines so you get a snug fit. Newer work boxes have wings that flip up to anchor them to the wall. Place the box so that the new outlet will sit flush with the wall — so if you have siding, turn the box and outlet sideways. Install the new box, pulling the new wire through. Wire up the new receptacle by attaching the appropriate wires to the appropriate screws. Tuck the wires into the work box and screw down the new receptacle.

Finish Installing the Outdoor Outlet

Once the receptacle is wired up, you can attach a faceplate and a weatherproof, in-use type cover over your new outdoor outlet. Turn the power back on and enjoy!

For more household renovation and repair tips, American Home Shield® has you covered. 

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